Evolving notes, images and sounds by Luis Apiolaza

Category: research (Page 1 of 8)

¿A quién citamos en el sector forestal?

En mi post anterior preguntaba ¿A quién subsidiamos en el sector forestal?, lo que despertó una buena y civilizada discusión. Aprecio mucho la posibilidad de conversar así.

Hoy ví que Horacio Gilabert puso un link a una columna en El Mostrador que nos recordaba las palabras de Jacques Chonchol a la Asociación de Ingenieros Forestales en 1970. Un llamado a plantar árboles en tierras erosionadas por la eliminación de bosque nativo y sobreexplotación agrícola. Muy interesante, pero me preguntaba del contexto: rara vez uno escucha palabras de un fundador del Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitario (MAPU) en la discusión forestal actual.

Es fascinante recordar lo que dijo Chonchol, Vicepresidente del INDAP durante el gobierno de Frei y Ministro de Agricultura de Allende (implementando la reforma agraria) con respecto a la necesidad de plantar árboles en Chile. Ahí ya hay más contexto: era plantar pero hacer otros cambios radicales.

Viene a colación recordar que el mismo Chonchol publicó el libro “Por una nueva reforma agraria para Chile” en 2018, en que el capítulo 14 llama a “evitar la extensión del monocultivo forestal” y el capítulo 12 a “evitar la nueva concentración y extranjerización de la tierra” y el capítulo 17 a “devolver a las comunidades mapuches las tierras usurpadas y desarrollar una política de mejoramiento económico y social de los pueblos indígenas”. Uff, ¿Mucho contexto? Quizás. El libro es asequible y conviene darle una mirada antes de invocar a Jacques Chonchol como un partidario de más plantaciones de pino y eucalipto.

Yo también estoy de acuerdo con que necesitamos más árboles en Chile pero—como decía en un comentario en el post original—no podemos repetir los subsidios del DL701 y esperar un resultado diferente. Necesitamos paquetes tecnológicos que conduzcan a un manejo forestal que produzca madera que califique de grado estructural si queremos madera para construcción en altura. En caso contrario, vamos a seguir alimentando el mercado de metro ruma, con poco valor agregado, pasando parte del subsidio a las empresas de pulpa y las PYMEs continuarán quebrando por falta de materia prima apropiada.

Podemos pensar en plantar algunas especies nativas; he escuchado cosas muy interesantes acerca de roble, raulí y su híbrido, viniendo de la Universidad Austral. Podemos usar otras especies exóticas también, que amplíen la cadena productiva con más alto valor. Ahí estamos hablando de subsidios interesantes y de un sector forestal más diverso. Buscando algo así entré a estudiar Ingeniería Forestal un día de marzo de los años ochenta en Antumapu.

¿A quién subsidiamos en el sector forestal?

Las últimas semanas ha habido una ofensiva comunicacional grande del sector forestal chileno, con participación de las empresas grandes, CORMA, el Colegio de Ingenieros Forestales, etc. Editoriales, entrevistas a página completa, cartas al editor… acceso completo a los medios. Instalando la idea de una crisis del sector forestal, de la necesidad de “apoyo” del gobierno, de incrementar la seguridad en la macrozona sur y de políticas que impulsen la expansión del área plantada.

Un componente importante de esa ofensiva comunicacional es establecer como punto de prensa la necesidad de subsidios, en ocasiones indirectamente (“el área forestal creció mientras hubo subsidios, ahora no”), a veces directamente (“necesitamos subsidios”). Otro componente es destacar que el apoyo es para la pequeña y mediana empresa, no las grandes, porque se ve feo que empresas con capitalizaciones de miles de millones de dólares anden pidiendo apoyo del Estado.

Estaba en la ducha, lugar de origen de muchas ideas de investigación y artículos, pensando en esta historia cuando me surgió la siguiente duda: ¿Cuánto de los subsidios a la pequeña y mediana empresa es, al mismo tiempo, subsidio a las grandes empresas?

Línea de pensamiento: el mercado de trozas de pulpa es un monopsonio o un oligopsonio para los pequeños y medianos propietarios forestales (uno o dos compradores, depende de dónde uno esté). Las empresas de pulpa tienen sus propias plantaciones, pero también compran de terceros y fijan el precio de metros ruma (unidad de volumen 1 m x 1 m x 2,44 m), afectando en buena medida la rentabilidad de pequeños y medianos propietarios. Subsidios a las plantaciones se transfieren, al menos parcialmente, como subsidios a las empresas grandes que logran mantener su rentabilidad por medio del precio de metros ruma.

Me gustaría saber si hay estudios que han mirado a este ángulo del problema. Esto es lo que pensaba mirando desde la distancia al sector forestal chileno, necesita ser pulido, digerido, dado vuelta, procesado y escrito con más claridad. 🙂

Do you remember your first time?

You were nervous. Would they like it as much as you did? Would you make the cut? Your first manuscript as a senior author tends to be a memorable experience. On one side, you have been working a long time, coming to terms with the problem, learning, building models, polishing the words [insert a few iterations here] until you submit the manuscript. It is a hopeful act.

Do you remember the feeling of the first acceptance? Your work was judged good enough to be published in that special journal, the one you like. The one were so and so, the authors you admire, published their work. Later you’ll understand that there are diminishing returns, so your tenth article will not provoke the same reaction, and your fiftieth article… you get the idea.

Do you remember your first rejection? Was it just a “desk-rejection”, wrong journal, no big deal? Or was it a “we hate the manuscript, what a turd”? This one can hurt, but there are diminishing returns too: your tenth rejection is more like “meh, what do they know?”.

Both the acceptances and rejections are of that particular piece of work. They are not about you, although some referees (typically referee No2) sometimes manage to make it feel personal. You are not a better or worse person because of the comments of a random set of referees. It is good to remember that a different sample of referees could have told you something very different about the manuscript.

I do remember the first acceptance; I barely remember the first rejection. I do look at those experiences with older eyes, thinking that in both cases I would write the manuscript very differently today.

Taylor & Francis made me do it

Today I received an email from Taylor & Francis letting me know that the final volume and pagination for one of our papers was available, and telling me that I should share this paper with the world. I should, as the open access (OA) costs are USD 3,000+. The article is here, by the way.

Today Elsevier sent me an email as well, confirming that OA fees of USD 3,400+ for our new accepted article were covered by our university’s Read and Publish Agreement.

Also today (it was a busy day!), MDPI sent me an email, stating that the authors of a new review were sharing their new OA article with me. It cost them 2,600 Swiss Francs or roughly USD 2,900 to do so. I consider MDPI Forests borderline predatory, so I wouldn’t pay to go there, but “cada loco con su tema”, as we say in Spanish.

I am part of a priviledged group, who works at one of the members of CAUL, an organisation for university libraries in Australia and New Zealand. We have access to big bucket agreements with publishers (the usual suspects like Elsevier, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, etc). We have a quota of articles, first-in, first-served, that are published open access “for free”. Not quite, the universities pay for that quota, but researchers are not charged individually.

This situation creates funny incentives: OA publishing in journals run by big publishers has no direct cost to me. OA publishing in journals that I like—Annals of Forest Science, for example—but that are not part of my university agreement is unaffordable. I literally have no funding for it. As Annals of Forest Science only publishes OA articles, that’s bye, bye for me. A good alternative, in forestry at least, is to publish for free in an OA journal like the New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science. Give them a  try.

Today I was left with the horrible feeling that we are burning money for no clear purpose in the current publication environment. We could easily pay for better PhD scholarships or postdoc salaries with that money, although is not available for those purposes. We can only use it to keep on feeding publishers with insanely high profit rates. Crazy.

Anyway, if you are interested in essential oils from eucalypts, read the article. I mentioned this work before but now comes with fresh, shiny, cineole-smelling page numbers. Either that or the article smells like burning money.

I do not work in that topic, except when I do

—We are planning a conference on changes to silviculture because of forest fires and climate change… Do you wanna come?
—But I don’t work in that topic.
—Don’t you?

To be perfectly honest, I have never seen myself as dealing with forest fires in my research. I do work, sometimes obsess, on the within- and between-tree variability of wood properties and its genetic control. BUT and, this is an important but, one of the ideas of working in my topic is to identify, domesticate and generate new varieties with “good” within-tree wood property trends. Trends that could allow for shorter rotation (time to harvest) plantations or that could have better wood with lower stocking (fewer trees per hectare).

And here comes the connection: one silvicultural response to increased fire frequency is to use lower stockings, reducing fire risk. Therefore, I DO work in that topic and, perhaps, should go to the conference. 😎 

P.S. In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a fantastic British TV series called Connections, hosted by James Burke. Burke’s aim was to show the interconnection of ideas in history of science. He is also responsible of doing what has been called “the best-timed piece to camera” or “the greatest shot in television” (starting in second 0:43, if you are impatient). Just another connection.

Screenshot of James Burke’s best-timed piece inn camera
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